Monday, August 18, 2014

Courting A New Interest

Oh, the tribulations of tennis.

Pardon me for sounding like I'm whining. For the previous five decades of my life, I regarded tennis as an activity whose thrill factor rivaled that of taxidermy. I'm not sure what happened. One day I woke up and felt an overwhelming compulsion to buy a cheap racket, some of Wilson's finest burn-your-retinas-yellow balls, and have at it.

Of course, it hadn't occurred to me to sit for a moment, and peruse over some of the basic rules. That's what led to my overconfidence early on. I tell you I was really slamming them with the ferocity of the finest ever to step on the courts of the US Open. Turns out that you can do that with impunity when you park it midway between the base line and the service line.

To correct my error, I spent another week overcompensating by serving from the chain link fence behind me. I'm still unsure whether or not that's legal. I can tell you that it's a great way to get some pretty quizzical looks from people who have played the game for a long time. "What's that man doing, mommy?" is usually followed by "leave the poor man alone, dear. Obviously he has issues". My racket, purchased for the less-than-princely sum of nineteen dollars, already bears the battle scars of said fence, in addition to the time it slipped from my hand during a serve, cleared the fence, and tried to return prematurely to my car waiting at the bottom of the hill.

I was relieved when my serve finally settled down and allowed me to get the ball into the service box at an apparent speed of five miles per hour. A bright yellow ball travelling at that speed apparently creates an optical illusion to people playing in the next court. Some guy's partner had stopped paying attention to his game, apparently, to watch Wilson's Gravity-Defying Specials wandering lazily across the net, looking for all the world like the back of the head of the "have a nice day" guy. (I still imagine the insipid smile of that character and imagine him thinking, gosh, it sure is a nice day to receive four-hundred tennis racket concussions this afternoon.) While I'm musing over this, the guy in the next court is missing another serve, now transfixed to the rookie whose mission of the day is to develop at least some control over a basic serve.

I'm unsure how, in pro tennis, people are expected to hit a ball, make it exceed one hundred miles per hour, clear the net, and still make it land in those little boxes right on the other side of the net. I began whacking the balls with a lot of force in order to increase the speed. In fact, the speed did increase, dramatically. I know this, because  the net was now billowing as though it were caught in an early wind of an oncoming hurricane. The balls, meanwhile, were returning directly back to me. Actually, ricochet is a better term to use here.

Hoping to finish the afternoon well, I began hitting the balls with a little less force, which helped -that is, until I became aware that I was only paying attention to the net itself. In my zeal to drive the balls onto the opposite side, I became aware that I was actually mortaring a very nice young couple who was trying to slip past and onto the far court, and whose own afternoon shouldn't have included shell shock.

I like tennis. People who play it seem very friendly, The fact that anyone could have forgiven me for my unintentional full frontal assault means that I can return to that court without having to wear a fake moustache and a visor. My serve itself has improved substantially. Can't wait to play with a partner. Fascinating game, tennis.

I'll court it for awhile.


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